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Near-record demand triggers electricity emergency alerts in Alberta Monday night

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Furnaces and space heaters working overtime to keep homes heated, vehicles plugged in, and more people hunkering down indoors all lead to increased power usage during a deep freeze.

In fact, every time the temperature dips by 10 degrees, we use eight per cent more electricity and 40 per cent more natural gas, according to ENMAX.

READ MORE: How to save energy but stay warm during Alberta’s first cold snap of 2020

The extreme cold snap gripping Alberta since late-last week caused a spike in demand for power Monday evening.

The Alberta Electric System Operator said that demand, coupled with the weather affecting the operations of some generation facilities and low wind in the province, triggered two energy emergency alerts.

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The AESO to activated its energy emergency alert (EEA) protocol, which it said is a zero (normal conditions) to three tiered alert system with established protocols and processes to balance supply and demand.

A level one alert was declared at at 5:18 p.m., and then it was upped to a level two alert at 7:15 p.m.

The AESO said under both a level one and level two energy emergency alerts, all power needs in the province continue to be met, but reserves are being used.

Once the alert gets to level three, the AESO said it anticipates the need to curtail load, meaning some power is lost in parts of the province until enough generation returns to the grid, or power usage reduces to a point where supply and demand are balanced once again.

AESO did not specify which areas of Alberta could be affected at a level three.

With the cold weather expected to continue over the new few days, the AESO said it’s closely monitoring the system and will notify Albertans if grid conditions worsen.

READ MORE: Extreme cold weather snap contributes to 3 electricity records in Alberta

The AESO said it was already seeing record-breaking power use Tuesday morning. In Edmonton, the temperature in morning was -34 C but felt like -44 with the windchill.

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At 6:41 p.m. on Tuesday, AESO tweeted that Alberta had officially set a new “all-time peak electricity consumption record of 11,698 MW (megawatts) surpassing the 2018 record by 1 MW.”

The non-profit entity noted in its tweet that “grid conditions are looking good for the evening.”

Debunking myths about cold weather and health
Debunking myths about cold weather and health

Environment Canada said some areas in the province will see wind chill values between -45 and -50 before the deep freeze lifts.

Environment Canada meteorologist Danny Brown said on Sunday while the wind would be the bigger factor on Sunday and Monday, it would taper off just as the temperature dropped even further.

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“As we get to Tuesday and Wednesday, the temperatures are going to get much colder but the winds won’t be as strong. I think Wednesday night will be the worst night,” Brown said.

Edmonton early morning weather forecast: Tuesday, January 14, 2020
Edmonton early morning weather forecast: Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The good news is, the deep freeze is expected to end this upcoming Sunday, when the temperature is set to rise to -4 C, and on Monday, the forecast calls for a balmy 3 C.

Albertans can help by reducing their power usage by:

  • Turning off unnecessary lights and electrical appliances
  • Minimizing the use of air conditioning/space heaters
  • Delaying the use of major power-consuming appliances such as washers, dryers and dishwashers until after the peak hours of 5 to 7 p.m.
  • Use cold water for washing clothes – most of the energy used goes to heating the water. Only running full loads helps too.
  • Cook with small appliances like a microwave, crockpot or toaster oven instead of the stove
  • Limit the use of kitchen or bathroom ventilation fans
  • Use motion detector lights in storage areas, garages, and outdoors when possible
  • Work on a laptop instead of a desktop computer — laptops are more energy efficient than desktop units

READ MORE: Save money on your energy bills with these 6 tips